My name is J.P. and I retired in New York City with just over $2.25 million when I was 28.
I did this while making plenty of mistakes and in general being a human rather than a perfect financial robot.
I wholeheartedly believe that anyone can retire decades earlier than their peers.
You don’t need special skills, just a willingness to show up every week and make a habit of small, steady improvements. My own story proves it.
My parents grew up poor (eight people living in a one room apartment type of poor). My father was a bus boy all through high school and college. My mother worked at the family convenience store after school. My mother’s definition of “rich” was her 6th grade friend, whose father would take her to McDonald’s to have a happy meal every Wednesday. There were no silver spoons here. No silver anything, to be quite honest. Silver was for people who had more than $200 in their bank account.
My father graduated college but my mother didn’t. He was the first generation in his family to graduate from college. He became a software engineer back before the tech boom hit. She stayed home for a few years before eventually landing a position as a secretary at a headhunting firm.
When I grew older and started thinking about what I wanted to do in life, my parents’ refrain to me was that I could do anything I wanted, as long as I found a way to support myself financially.
What I wanted to do was write. But I found out quickly that writers made a very unsteady living. It was then that I started reading personal finance books. I decided that if I couldn’t do what I loved and make a living, I would be retired, because retired people could do whatever they wanted to do. I wanted to write, so I would need to retire first.
I had cobbled together merit scholarships that would have paid my full way to a great state school (UCLA), but I chose Harvard for the broader opportunities. I graduated in three years so I could save a year’s worth of tuition and start the money-making part of my life sooner.
Between the tuition saved and what I ultimately earned working for an extra year, that one decision saved me $150k, which could grow to over $800k in 20 years if invested at market rates. A single decision like that could fund someone’s entire retirement. One single decision! Opportunities to accelerate your retirement timeline sometimes come from the most unexpected places, and they’re very powerful early on due to compound interest.
My plan post-graduation was to start my own business. I ignored most of the job listings through the campus recruiting office, but one firm came to campus that sounded interesting. They were a finance firm that worked with fast growing companies, and they convinced me that if I wanted to start my own company, the best way to prepare myself would be to work for them and learn from successful companies and their CEO’s what things worked and what didn’t.
The starting pay was about $60k, with the promise that for those who didn’t flame out and actually made it to the end of the year, you could get a bonus that was almost the same amount, putting you at just over $100k.
The longer I stayed, the more interesting the role got and the more it paid. I ended up staying there for 7 years. I quit and retired at age 28, because as interesting as it was, I couldn’t imagine spending more of my precious few years on this planet being a professional investor when there was so much else to experience.
What I Learned
Because of my parents’ background, there was a strong focus on frugality growing up. We always got the necessities even if we didn’t often splurge for the fancy versions or upgrades on things. I couldn’t see it at the time, but the frugality encouraged during my childhood made me realize how little most of that stuff mattered.
It eliminated a bunch of crap from my life so I could focus on things that really did boost my happiness like investing in relationships, location, and meaningful work.
Fortunately, it taught me this lesson early in my life so I could implement it to huge results from Day Zero in my own earning career.
My experiences also taught me how incredibly far just showing up and making steady improvement can take you. No super powers, super family connections, or super skills to speak of.
The Key Takeaway
We all have different starting points. Your situation could have been better or worse than mine in childhood. And we all have different windows of luck: you may have better or worse breaks than I had in my career. That means our results won’t be exactly identical.
But one thing is for sure: the you that is making steady, weekly improvements to your financial system is going to accumulate easily 5x the wealth of the you who isn’t. Steady, incremental improvement is a strategy that works for everyone, no curve-breaking super powers required.
This blog is about building the tools and frameworks to put you in control of your money destiny.
You don’t have to live like a robot. You don’t have to be a genius or have an incredibly unique skill set. You simply need to show up and improve one small piece of your system each day. Build a habit of incremental improvement – a Money Habit – that carries you to early financial freedom.
Ready to get started? Check out the Start Here page to get going.